Yesterday, a direct message on Instagram reignited a seemingly simple argument that I had with a friend a couple months ago. The a of the argument was what truth is. My friend believes that the truth is objective; the truth could never change. I believe that the truth is what people believe is true, and that the believed truth can be false. Let me give you an example of this. The geocentric theory – that planets and the Sun revolved around the Earth – was believed for centuries. The Church enforced the idea that the Earth had the honor of being handpicked by God to have everything revolve around it. And people believed it until the 17th century, when Galileo Galilei cast the seed of doubt and died as a martyr to do justice to the heliocentric model, which we now see today as the truth. Nowadays, we scoff and think of them as fools for believing in such an absurd theory, but, to them, the geocentric theory was not a theory but the truth. The geocentric model was not some opinion or perspective; they believed it to be true, making it the truth to them.
Now, let’s just say, hypothetically, that for some reason, governments across the world were brainwashing us with the geocentric model, when in reality, they know the truth is that the heliocentric model was right all along. What if the “truth” gets out and everyone scraps the heliocentric model and recognizes the geocentric model as the truth. In this case, the truth would change once again. Or how about the whole deal with saturated fats and sugar. In the 1960s, the sugar industry paid off nutrition scientists to blame cardiovascular diseases on saturated fats instead of sugar. For decades we believed in this false truth, and to this day, there is still a strong aversion to fats, when in reality, the real culprit was sugar all along. Now we are thankfully seeing sugar as the greater enemy, however, what if fifty years, we discover there is something else in our diets that are actually causing all these diet-related health problems. Then, the truth would change again.
There will always be a real truth out there, a truth that has been replaced or hidden by false truths. So, the definition that my friend used is right in its own sense. However, we do not and often lack the ability to use the word by that definition. The truth is that I killed your beta fish. The truth is that the keto diet sucks. These statements can be opinions, and they can also can be right or wrong. You forgot to feed your friend’s beta fish, Marie, for two days, and when you come to check up on it, it’s dead. So, you tell your friend that the truth is that you killed Marie by not feeding her. However, the cause of Marie’s death was actually not because you did not feed her, it was because depression that had built up over months had finally caused Marie’s heart to burst.
As you can see, the real truth is often hard to uncover, and even when uncovered, it’s hard to accept it. And so, it’s very likely that what we believe to be true today may be completely false. We should try to acknowledge that everything that we know to be true can easily be false, and that really nothing should be viewed as a hundred percent true.
Therefore, I ask you, what is the truth?